How to Talk to Teenagers About Substance Use


Scare tactics don’t work. But scientific education might. Here are tips for talking with teenaged patients about keeping themselves and their friends safe.


In this edition of PsychPearls, Hannah Simon, MD, interviews Diana M. Martinez, MD, about her innovate approach to drug use among teenagers. Avoiding old-fashioned scare tactics, Martinez talks to students and their parents about the neurological effects of substances like cannabis and alcohol. Could scientific education be a key protective factor against addiction?

In this podcast they cover:

  • The rising rate of teen cannabis use and its potential causes.
  • The effects of smoking marijuana on brain development.
  • How other psychiatric illnesses can lead to substance abuse disorders.
  • How to talk to teenagers about substance use—without being overbearing.
  • Distinguishing between experimental and problematic substance use.

Dr Simon is a child and adolescent psychiatry fellow at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Columbia University Department of Psychiatry for allowing us to present the Caring for Teens and Tweens podcast with experts in the field of psychiatry.

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